A bottle with lye and a pitcher with water

How Do You Make Lye Water?

As one of the most important – and dangerous – steps in soap making, and because it’s common to all soapmaking processes, I’ve decided to make a single post just to let you know how to make lye water for soap, safely and without any concerns.

Please, also check How To Make Soap By Cold Process to learn how and when to use lye water.

Safety First!!

Please, watch the following video about safety instructions. Most of them are actually regarding this operation.

Video in portuguese
Video in english

You can also read How To Make Soap From Scratch on Safety Recommendation

Getting Started

  • Do not start making the lye water without your safety equipment on: goggles, gloves and mask
  • Wear clothes that are covering you completely
  • Use a very well ventilated area, near a window or ideally outdoors

Making Simple Lye Water

  • Start by measuring the lye and the water separately. 
  • You should have a cup with lye and a 1 lt heat-resistant jug with the water, a kitchen or digital thermometer and a silicone spatula or spoon.
  • Your water should be at room temperature. Might sound strange with distilled water, but if you are using an infusion instead of water, this is very important: allow the infusion to cool before making the lye water. Hot water with lye will make a frightening volcano effect
  • Beware that the jug of water will heat a lot, up to 90ºC – 100ºC (194ºF – 212ºF). Keep it over a heat resistant surface. 
  • Go to your ventilated area, and pour the lye into the jug with water. NEVER pour the water into the lye.
  • Mix the lye water with the spatula/spoon until all lye crystals are dissolved. Beware now of vapours, they are toxic.
  • Measure the temperature, if you are going to do cold process soap, to control the target temperature at which you should mix the lye water with oils and wait till it reaches the right temperature
  • You should strain the lye water when using it for soapmaking, to prevent lye crystals from going into your soap batter. To be honest, I don’t follow this step very often and I never had problems, but I always make sure there are no “sandy” material (lye grains) at the bottom of the jug and all is dissolved.

The next video will show how simple it is to make the lye water, but, please, always keep the safety instructions in mind!

Lye Water Variants

Many soap makers use the lye water to color soap, as the color is more intense this way than if mixing it after trace. Especially if the colorant is a natural one, like spices, herbs, vegetables or clays. For example, if you are using a carrot purée to make soap, you add it to the lye water. You can also use: cinammon, turmeric, paprika, cocoa powder, green/pink/red/yellow clay, spirulina, pumpkin purée, tomato, purée, calendula, etc.

It is possible to use alternatives to distilled water: herbal infusions, milks, beer, even juices! Have in mind that using other liquids other than plain water is for experienced soap makers, as not all herbal infusions work and other drinks contain sugars that change the way the liquid and lye react – sugar accelerates the process, and also turns the water brown.

Also, this is the right time to add sodium lactate, a salt solution that help with soap hardening (solidifying). This is especially important for castile soaps, or any soap with a lot of liquid oil.

Watch this video about how to add other ingredients to make lye water:

Watch tihs video of how to make lye water with other liquids:

2 thoughts on “How Do You Make Lye Water?”

  1. Hi, you have triggered my curiosity to make soap myself. I have never thought about it, but after seeing your website, it has triggered my interest. 

    You have explained the process of making lye water very well. The videos make it easy to understand the process and how to do it. It should be easy to copy the procedure in the same way you have shown it.

    Safety is important as lye can cause severe injuries if not handled properly. By using safety glasses, gloves and a mask to cover your face, it should be a safe procedure.

    Is it latex gloves or rubber gloves you use? I expect rubber gloves. Further, I wonder about the specific requirements for the selection of the mask as well. What is the requirement for a mask?

    Thank you for a good article. I think I will try to make soap too. It seems like a lot of fun!

    Roy

    1. Sofia Matias

      Hello Roy and thanks for your comment.

      I am so glad that, even a not so interesting post about soapmaking, sparks the interest about this hobby/craft in people 🙂 This is what this blog is all about: letting people know that they can make soap at home and how.

      About your questions: soda and lye water are dangerous but at the same level as pure bleach (not the perfumed one, but the one that smells strongly of chloride). So. like bleach, you shouldn’t smell its vapors and you shouldn’t let drops of the stuff to fall in your skin. 

      Any gloves and mask can do that job. If you feel safer with rubber gloves and a special mask for fumes, go ahead and purchase it. But, really, it’s not necessary.

      Two more things to have in mind that makes preparing lye water safe is: do it in the outdoors or next to an open window; cover yourself completely with clothes – do not feel tempted to wear only a t-shirt because it’s hot and “you will be careful”. Wear covered shoes as well.

      Have in mind that the lye water will be mixed with oils later on and the soap mixture at that point IS still corrosive. So, doing the whole soap fully clothed makes it really safe for you.

      When is it fully safe? 48 hours after the soap has set is a safe rule-of-thumb.

      Hope this clarified everything for you!

      Cheers and stay safe!

      Sofia

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